Friday, July 19, 2013

Day 4, Part 2: Shenandoah National Park

After leaving Harpers Ferry, we drove to Shenandoah National Park.

Shenandoah is situated in the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains. Its over 100 miles long, and stretches a good length of the state of Virginia from the north to the south.

Its particularly famous for its Skyline Drive, which is regularly listed as one of the most beautiful drives in the country.

When I was planning our trip, I would look at the map and at Washington D.C., Frederick, and Williamsburg, and try and figure out the best way to go to each place, and in what order. And then I would plug in Monticello and Appomattox Court House, two other spots I really wanted to visit, and have to start all over again. And then I finally looked at the big green spot on the map, and realized we would be thisclose to a big national park. I didn't know much about Shenandoah, but if I'm going to have a choice between an average interstate and one of the ten most beautiful roads in the world, well, then, I'm going with the slightly longer route. It added about two hours of driving time to our trip to detour through Shenandoah, but I'm glad we did.

At one point, I decided we should spend the night in Shenandoah at one of their park lodges, rather than just driving though and camping in Charlottesville for Monticello the next day. It would help split up the drive, plus I wasn't 100% certain we would go to Monticello. It was on my could-delete-if-kids-are-bored-with-history-at-this-time-in-trip list.

The drive was stunning - you are basically in the middle of a forest on a small road, like this.

And then every few miles, you would come across a breathtakingly beautiful lookout, like this.

Unfortunately, the weather that had been threatening us the past few days finally cashed in on its threat, and some of our views just had a lot of fog. The kids thought this was pretty awesome, though, because they felt like they were in the clouds.

Well, we were at the top of a mountain, literally at the top of the world, so I suppose it is somewhat correct to say we were in the clouds.

That didn't stop me from being pretty bummed about the weather.

I mean, the views are why we made this drive.And Carl was starting to moan about the length of this trip (it was about 2.5 hours from Harpers Ferry), Alex had to go to the bathroom, like, NOW, so we were all getting a wee bit anxious.

The bad weather would come and go, which is fairly typical for a mountain.

I had no idea what would greet us at the Skyland Resort, but I suspected I wasn't going to be enjoying a glass of wine over sunset on the beautiful deck like the people on the front page of their website - the image that pretty much caused me to book the hotel in the first place. Sigh.

Much to my happiness, there was a view awaiting us at Skyland! It was cold, but it was a beautiful view. We put our names down for dinner, and I went outside (in the cold and drizzle) to take a few pictures, like this one.

And then even more to my happiness, and amazement, as I'm taking my pictures, I look down, and HOLY CRAP, THERE'S A BEAR!!

Just walking along the footpath, a real, live BEAR. I take pictures, I don't move, and I quickly call Carl (since he and the boys are inside in the warm restaurant).

The bear walks away, and of course only then do Carl and the boys get outside.

While we were eating, the sun started to set.

This is definitely one of the best sunsets I've ever seen, right up there with our Hawaii sunsets.


So. I took a lot of sunset photos.


I just loved how the sky changed, from a pale blue, to a wild purple, to a fiery orange, and then back to a darker blue.

I tried to get a photo of the kids with the sunset, but clearly that takes some photographic skills I am not in possession of.

Using the flash didn't help, either.

Goodbye, sun.

And finally, after we thought the sun was set, we drove to our room. I immediately ran out to the balcony, and tried to capture the final twilight images.

It ... kind of worked.

In the morning, I was hopeful for some clear skies. Alas, this is the view we woke up to.

As we drove along Skyline Drive, and headed towards lower elevation levels, things did get a bit better.

Or worse.

All things being said, I'm still glad we made the time to detour through Shenandoah. Seeing this sunset (and my bear) totally made it worthwhile in my opinion.

Up Next: Monticello

Day 1: Blackbirds, Canals and Poison Ivy
Day 2: Antietam and Monocacy National Battlefields
Day 3: Gettysburg's 150th Anniversary
Day 4: Harpers Ferry National Park (and yes, that name is grammatically correct)
Day 4, Part 2: Shenandoah National Park

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